The Underblog

Risky business for brands that get political in marketing and advertising


In an era when much of the American public is increasingly divided by politics, some businesses have put their brands in peril by attempting to find commonality in political or social events.

With viral protests against cases of sexual harassment, racism and anti-equality fueling the media discussion on the web and over the airwaves lately, marketing and advertising agencies must help businesses protect their own brands from being caught up in the snowball of negative media commentary.

Some companies have incorporated politics with critical success rather than pushback. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has famously built advertising campaigns focused on humanity and diversity, including its iconic “Hilltop” commercial from 1971 and its Super Bowl companion “The Wonder of Us” earlier this year.

There have been several recent examples, however, of brands that entered the political fray with severe turbulence. Such cases include:

  • Pepsi’s campaign featuring reality TV star Kendall Jenner who offers a can of the soda to a police officer monitoring a public protest. The company pulled the ad after many critics suggested it lessened the importance of protests against police brutality, which was hotly debated at the time.
  • Uber received backlash when the company continued to operate while New York City taxi drivers protested by refusing pickups after President Donald Trump ordered an immigration ban in January 2017. Public pressure quickly mounted against Uber, followed by protests on social media suggesting its customers should “#DeleteUber.” Meanwhile, Uber’s biggest competitor, Lyft, said it would donate $1 million to the ACLU in response to the ban.
  • In November 2017, Papa John’s founder John Schattner questioned the leadership of the NFL over the league’s response to players’ protests during the national anthem. Soon after the Super Bowl, the NFL named Pizza Hut its new pizza sponsor.

Despite the consequences of these decisions, a Sprout Social study revealed that 66 percent of consumers, regardless of political affiliation, believe that brands should become more politically active. The study also said more than half of all consumers think such activity should take place on social media.

So how should agencies help businesses protect their brands when politics bleeds into their advertising and marketing campaigns? Before showing the world where the brand stands on a particular issue, businesses should consider these measures:

Be relevant but use caution. Your brand should be authentic in what it stands for when it comes to political issues. But those issues should directly affect the business. Don’t post about an issue on your brand’s social media channels just on a whim. Take a firm stance if it has an impact on your business and your customer base.

Act like a journalist. There are few ways to cause more trouble for your brand than to lie. If you take a stance with your brand and present evidence to support your position on an issue, then you have an obligation to fact-check before you share your message with your audience. If you risk lying, then you risk your brand become untrustworthy, and that may mark the end of your business.

Know who is receiving your message. If you know your brand’s customers well, then you’ll likely know the type of commentary that will garner the most positive response. Pay attention to how your customer base feels about or discusses an issue. Finding the loudest opinion may help you shape and deliver your brand commentary to an audience.

Ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” You can’t please everyone. By taking a stance on a political or cultural issue, you’re choosing to risk a negative reaction. Some customers and followers may decide to stop paying attention to your brand for a long time, if not forever. On the other hand, it’s possible your brand may see a net gain of customers and followers because of the position it takes on a public issue. Decide how much emphasis you want to put on politics in your messaging and be willing to accept some losses in response.

Have a sounding board. Brands can’t trust that they alone know best. Agencies that specialize in advertising, marketing and public relations have a unique ability to serve as a sounding board for ideas. Hiring such a service can help preserve a brand’s strength and integrity at times when it becomes part of a public conversation.

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Never doubt the value of a social media audit

Is your brand reaching the key performance indicators you first established when you began on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Is it reaching your target audience through the right channels? Are your followers becoming customers?

If you’re finding a lack of reward from your investments in social media, then maybe its time to re-evaluate how you’re using it to strengthen your brand and business.

Approach your brand’s social media audit step-by-step in the following order:

Inventory. Does your target audience for each platform actually align with the general demographics of users on those platforms? The Pew Research Center provides helpful data on the latest social media trends in users by age and gender. Use this information to pair your brand’s messaging with the platform used most frequently used by your target audience.

Policy. Who creates your brand’s narrative? Who is tasked with posting messages on each channel? When do you respond to users who tag your brand in their own social media posts? How do you track KPIs? Your brand’s voice will likely be loudest on social media, so planning ahead and answering these kinds of questions are key to ensuring brand consistency.

Activity. Examine information that each platform provides about your social media channels such as audience size, user age and gender, geographical location and engagement frequency. If you have social influencers pushing your brand, then determine the channels where they spend the most time and energy. Determine if visitors to your brand’s social channels prefer watching videos, listening to podcasts, or reading blogs. Find the messages for your brand that draw the largest positive responses and repurpose them to reinforce your narrative.

Compare. Regularly monitor the messaging your competitors are building for their brands as you would your own. Learn who the closest competitors are to your brand and how they’re sharing messages on social media channels, including the keywords and hashtags they most frequently use. Observe follower growth and impressions.

Analyze. If you follow the process above, then you will find all the pieces you need to reveal what the puzzle shows: the current state of your brand and the possibilities for the future. Set new goals for your KPIs, establish a target date to reach those goals, then perform another audit. You’ll see whether or not your brand is on the right track for success.

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4 strategies to improve customer engagement and meet consumer expectations

Create multiple buying outlets. Ordering a product online and finding out it’s not in a local store can leave customers feeling burned. Instead, retailers can create better transparency for customers. Also, real-time tracking of in-store inventory that customers can view on their smartphone can encourage users to buy from their phone and pick up in-store, creating foot traffic that can lead to more business for the brick-and-mortar store.

Offer real-time promotions. Retailers with apps or e-newsletters can notify customers through their smartphones about in-store promos upon their arrival to a store, or after making a previous purchase. An app can also be an easy-to-use resource readily available on a consumer’s phone so they can be accustomed to browsing through the brand’s app instead of immediately leaping to Amazon or another competitor to make a purchase.

Let customers design their own profiles. When retailers offer suggestions on what to buy based on past purchases, they’re blocking control by the customer. According to a report by Accenture, 75 percent of consumers say they would find it valuable to create and manage a “living profile” used to better curate experiences and make recommendations.

Don’t be overbearing toward customers. According to the same Accenture report, 41 percent of consumers find it creepy when they receive a text from a brand or retailer as they walk by a physical store. Yes, the Internet of Things can help businesses reach out and touch someone, but that can be received in a negative manner that leads to customers becoming former customers. The same outcome may occur if internet cookies allow social sites to advertise items you’ve previously browsed on the brand’s website.

Try establishing a modest schedule of promos and special offers, and extend a polite apology message for customers who express a poor shopping experience online or in-store. Regardless of age, a customer will appreciate the personal care and develop a positive association that will encourage them to stick with the brand.

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Advertising personalization must reach all generations of consumers

Advertising personalization must reach all generations of consumers

There is a shift happening right now in how consumers behave when it comes to retail shopping. Technology has helped millennials transform the purchasing journey from the analog experience shared by Generation X members and Baby Boomers alike to the real-time, instant buying power used by millennials.

And now thanks to the Internet of Things, millennials’ expectations are changing. They want to buy, but their commitment to buy and even their preferred shopping method varies based on the advertising used to attract them.

For example, Marketing Land explains millennials don’t concern themselves with checkout wait times, inventory availability and easy return policies at retailers when compared to older shoppers. Younger consumers look for ways to bypass the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. The aforementioned article details a Euclid study of 1,500 U.S. consumers, 47 percent of those surveyed whom identify as a millennial buy online, then pick up at the store.

While this new generation of shoppers trends toward shortcuts in the buyer journey, they’re also looking for knowledge about products they want to own through a social dialogue. The Euclid survey found that most millennials rely on Facebook and email marketing to communicate with brands, but they keep influenced to buy by interacting with knowledgeable sales staff in the store.

Because the information retrieved through tech or socializing can push them to buy and buy often, younger generations are quickly becoming the largest general customer base. But businesses, marketers and ad agencies can’t forget about Gen Xers and Baby Boomers anytime soon. They must find the right balance in establishing a traditional shopping experience and a digital journey rooted in personalization.

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Voted Top 20 Social Media Marketing Agency for 2018

Van Winkle + Associates has been named one of the Top Social Media Marketing Agencies for 2018 by Agency Spotter, an online creative services platform for marketers. Top 20 Social Media Agencies Agency Spotter 2018

VWA has been ranked No. 15 among more than 750 independent firms surveyed nationwide based on credentials, focus areas, related expertise, verified client reviews and project work.

“We’re honored and humbled to be included on this list of agencies that create outstanding work and deliver exceptional results for their clients,” said VWA President Alex Van Winkle.

VWA is a creatively focused, media-agnostic advertising and marketing agency in Atlanta with full-service capabilities including media planning and buying, strategic planning, creative services, production arts and digital/social media content strategy and management. VWA has a 30-year history of working with national and regional clients in industries including casual dining/QSR, CPG, consumer products, ecommerce, financial services, home furnishings, hospitality, beverages, retail, technology and automotive.

Click here to view our creative portfolio.

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What is GDPR And How Will It Affect Your Business?

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, goes into effect on May 25. It’s important for agencies, clients and consumers to understand how it will impact digital everywhere.

GDPR is essentially a set of guidelines for how companies can use personal data collected through digital devices. It’s part of an ongoing debate surrounding internet privacy and user protections. The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica brought the discussion to the forefront of societal concerns.

These guidelines tighten strict laws already set for European companies over what they can do with people’s data, but firms around the world that collect customer data and/or have business with data processing and other services in the European Union must adhere to GDPR, including those companies in the U.S.

GDPR fills in the legal blanks left open in the e-commerce landscape before the era of smartphones and the frequent collection of large amounts of data by companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Under GDPR, digital customers are given more control over how their personal data is collected and companies are required to provide more transparency about the specific data collected and how the data will be used. Your name, phone number, account username, IP address, geographical location – anything that can identify you. And there are even stricter policies for sensitive information such as sexual orientation, health data and political opinions.

Users will often have to opt in to allow a company to use their personal data. They can request to have data deleted and should be able to receive it through a common file type. But agreements by companies to delete data are not guaranteed as certain conditions apply.

Misuse of consumer data now has a price tag. Any firm that is found guilty of not complying with the GDPR regulation could be fined up to 20 million Euros or 4 percent of annual turnover, whichever is larger.

 

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What’s Old is New Again in Television Advertising

Milton Berle Phillies Cigar Spokesperson

 

It’s been nearly eight decades since the first TV commercial break aired for Bulova Watch Co. just before the first pitch of a televised baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies in July 1941. Only two months earlier, the FCC approved of TV commercials. Once brands realized the power of television advertising it was the wild west. Ad Agencies thought they were going to be developing television shows along with all different formats of advertising.

 

In the early days, announcers would step away from the camera to read messages from Procter & Gamble, Goodyear, and more. Sometimes a product would be introduced to the audience from the stars as with Winston cigarettes plugged by Fred Flintstone. Other times, a brand would headline the show, like the 1950s series “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.” The singer would introduce the newest model as “the most important guest star of our show.”

 

When you look at the historical arc of broadcast advertising, advertisers have been continuously pushed away from the content of the show and relegated into their 30 second time spot. But that is starting to change. Three trends are forcing networks to look at creative ways to integrate with their advertisers: 1) In 2016, digital ad spending eclipsed television.; 2) Nielsen has recorded an 8 percent drop in prime-time TV viewing among the coveted 18-49 age ; 3) the traditional model has being uprooted by ad-skipping technology and services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime. These add up to a big problem for networks.

 

 

Networks and agencies have been forced to innovate or revisit some ideas from yesterday to cope with changes in the media landscape. They are bringing back old favorites like NBC’s Will & Grace and bringing advertisers to the party. With the launch the network and advertiser developed an “innovative” cross-platform partnership. “Will & Grace” prompted Honda to create a 90-second spot that features actors from the show in character, one of whom is driving a new Honda Accord. Another popular NBC show, “This Is Us,” recently joined with State Farm in a similar relationship. The insurer has produced family-themed ads that incorporate flashback sequences like those seen in the drama series. Voiceovers will even be delivered by cast members from the show. The State Farm ads will run during the live airing of the episode as well as video on demand, and the company will see additional distribution through social media and on custom pages on NBC.com.

 

Even late night shows are following this formula. In an effort to avoid being forced to let go of producers on his show due to budget issues, comedian Jimmy Kimmel decided to incorporate brands into segments of his show. While taping a week’s worth of shows in Brooklyn instead of his usual Los Angeles studio, Kimmel filmed a bit where he asked silly questions of local bartenders — complete with a Smirnoff logo on camera. And another late night host, Conan O’Brien, has spent several years pushing video games on his show in a segment called “Clueless Gamer,” where O’Brien and a celebrity guest will play the game on the show with plenty of humorous antics.

 

All that is old is new again in TV land. The concept of program integration by the guys who pay the bills is alive and seems to be working.

 

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The future of voice search should make agencies and brands concerned about their SEO

amazon voice search, atlanta ad agency

Amazon made a splash on Super Bowl Sunday with its event campaign “Alexa Loses Her Voice,” where celebrities filled in for the standard robot voice that Echo users traditionally hear.

 

It’s a clever ad that highlights the functional commands that allow users to engage with Alexa as well as reinforce the popularity of the device. Geekwire reports that as of December 2017, there were 31 million Amazon Echo bases installed in the U.S. alone, with Google Home following with just 14 million but growing fast in units sold.

 

It’s still early for voice interactive search and engagement and the facilitating technologies. But its development is quickly accelerating, leaving some brands and businesses to feel as thought they’re already behind the times.

 

And that’s largely because of SEO – it’s not just for typed text anymore. It’s for voice search, too.

 

Whether at home or on the go, consumers are now able to effortlessly seek information with either a button or by voice command. More importantly to brands, they can also make purchases just as easily, so optimizing SEO for mobile and voice should be a top priority for businesses moving forward.

 

Fortunately, many of the best practices for SEO carry over into voice search. The target for optimization, however, is to be the featured result that voice devices reply with to a user’s inquiry. Because some devices may only reply with a single result, this means achieving “ownership” of a top ranking like Google’s featured snippet, also known as an answer box. The reason this search result is now more valuable than ever is because it will require new thinking on keywords and mobile-first content strategies.

 

Forbes offers three key tips on how to be prepare for this new phase of Web search:

 

Consider speech patterns. When typing on a keyboard, even on a mobile device, users tend to stick with shorthand searches. For example, if I wanted to know the weather forecast for today in Atlanta, I would most likely type “weather Atlanta” or “Atlanta weather.” The results on most search engines or devices would likely give me the current temperature and weather conditions.

 

But if I want to know what the weather was going to like on Friday as I’m making a sandwich, I’d likely say aloud to my nearest Android device, “OK, Google. What’s the weather forecast in Atlanta on Friday?” And I would hear the information I wanted to know.

 

Long-tail keywords. Let’s say you play golf and you’re in the market for a new driver and you want to test it out at a nearby brick-and-mortar store today. You might initially search Google for “golf driver” and see a return SERP full of different brand names and prices for a various makes and models of drivers.

 

Perhaps you know which brand you want based on experience and now you just want to know where you can buy one, so you search for “Callaway golf driver stores in Atlanta.” Google replies with Edwin Watts Golf store in a featured snippet, with its website link, street address, operating hours and 24 reviews – plenty of information that countered the specificity of your search.

 

Agencies and brands should go the extra mile to test and incorporate as many keywords as they can that answer questions their target consumers may ask their smart device through a voice search.

 

Continued emphasis on mobile. A mobile-friendly website is going to keep a brand’s website higher on a SERP than one primarily formatted for a desktop computer. That shouldn’t be news to anyone working on the Web in the past few years, but with a shift toward voice search – especially among younger generations – there will be a growing war for the top results on the SEO battlefield unless agencies can help their clients stay ahead of the curve.

 

Like it or not, voice-activated search is on the horizon and headed our way. Unlike a typical web search, voice search usually comes up with just one or two choices. This could be a huge problem for brands like CPG in the future, especially with Amazon buying Whole Foods and their plethora of private-labeled 365 products. Brands that don’t pay to play will have to pinpoint their SEO to particpate in the voice-activated marketplace in the future. Ad agencies and advertisiers need to get up to speed and keep on top of the information if they want to stay relevant.

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Ad Agencies and Clients Choose Instagram to Reach the Mobile Shopper

Atlanta Advertising Agency, instagram, Social media

 

 

 

Instagram has gone from a simple photo album app to a dominant marketing force in social media. The app, bought by Facebook in 2012, has evolved into a seamless experience that can shares photos, videos and live streaming produced by users to share with their digital followers.

 

TechCrunch said the app eclipsed its closest competitor, Snapchat, in total number of users in just one year after the introduction of Instagram Stories, a feature that allows users to temporarily post select photos and video for 24 hours. Instagram lists on its business site that the app now has more than 500 million daily users and a total audience of more than 800 million. And at least 80 percent of Instagram accounts follow at least one business.

 

For digital marketers, these numbers represent a sea of opportunity, and Instagram’s advertising options can potentially engage all of them with your brand. Instagram provides four different advertising methods: photo, video, carousel and Stories. Each of these options includes, at minimum, a call-to-action link for users to learn more information about your brand or to shop immediately online.

 

Also, there’s an increased level of engagement opportunity with each option. For example, you can upload high-definition videos and, with carousel and Stories, include multiple photos and videos to engage users.

 

With Instagram ads, marketers are given the tools they need to maximize their reach on the platform. They can select basic targeting categories from location, age and gender to clicked interests and behaviors based on Instagram and Facebook activity. They can also refine targeting a step further through custom audiences, using email addresses and phone numbers, and lookalike audiences, which share traits of existing customers.

 

And marketers realize goals by observing data rooted in awareness (reach, frequency, brand awareness), considerations (website clicks, video views) and conversions (website visits, mobile app engagement).

 

The most significant difference between Instagram and other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is that its niche is simplistic mobile-first design and function. The desktop browser version of Instagram doesn’t come with all the advanced bells and whistles that its iPhone/Android counterpart includes such as hashtags and global search. Just like users can find on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram users can search for specific brands by name or hashtags, resulting in a collection of connection posts that feature posts and discussions about a brand and its products or services.

 

Today, even the most passive browsing experiences can lead to engagement and new customers with Instagram. Making it incredibly easy for users to shop while on the go steers users away from the desktop version, thus further pushing digital marketers to always be thinking mobile first advertising.

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AR Nurtures Emotional Engagement for Brands and Consumers

 

Our 21st century technology has gradually produced numerous channels for digital escapism, but none have pushed the boundaries more than recent advances in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Since its release in summer 2016, Pokémon GO made a splash in the arena of smartphone AR. As an entertainment brand born in the formative years of the millennial generation, Pokémon stretched across video games, playing cards and other merchandise. The AR iteration, however, where players individually or in teams visit real-world locations to “capture” monsters, became the most downloaded mobile game app in 2016 with mass appeal for social connectedness through a nostalgic experience.
Many brands are already developing ways to integrate digital- and real-world engagement to shorten the journey between browser and buyer. Here are a few examples of brands that have already undertaken experiments in AR:
Moxie, an Atlanta-based marketing company, decided in 2017 to forego sending out the traditional holiday cards and candy to clients and vendors. Instead, it decided to experiment with the interactivity of augmented reality with “rapping” giftwrapping paper. With the help of a local muralist and recording artist T-Pain, Moxie sent AR wrapping that, when using the company’s Gift Rap app, featured a singing animation all over the pattern. Such a feature might have made it more difficult to rip up the paper for any gift found inside.
Ikea is pushing the limits of AR by bringing the retail browsing experience directly to your smartphone. Want to see how a coffee table might fit in your living room, or how a futon will look in a guest bedroom? The furniture maker has created a free app that allows users to use their cameras and view any of more than 2,000 products as though it were appearing in a room. The app, called Ikea Place, uses data picked up by your camera to map objects in a room to render a 3-D image of a product at scale with 98 percent accuracy. An AR application like Ikea Place has the potential to streamline the furniture shopping experience – removing the longtime woes of measuring spaces, comparing fabrics and colors, and seeing how the products look in the home only after buying them.
Porsche is aiming to improve its technician services with a set of AR smart glasses used in a process called Tech Live Look. In the event that a technician at any Porsche dealership can’t immediately determine a car’s problem or find the solution, they can use the smart glasses to link with the support team at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta. The smart glasses include a high-resolution camera that can examine very small objects among the vehicle’s parts as well as LEDs provide illumination in dark crevices. The support team in Atlanta can send instructions and other assessments directly to the glasses, thus preventing a technician from wasting time with opening an email on a remote computer. With this system, customers can expect to get their cars back faster as the eight dealerships that have implemented this technology have decreased resolution time by 40 percent.
As VR’s focus is largely shifting toward the future of gaming, AR is headed toward disrupting the norms of daily life. Advances in technology and their applications in retail shopping and the producer-consumer relationship will dramatically improve the overall customer experience for a growing number of industries in the near future. Agencies today need to bring clients ideas and examples of how the brand experience can be richer and more personal via AR and VR applications.

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